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Anime Reviews: Deadman Wonderland

Updated on July 22, 2016
2011; Director: Koichi Hatsumi; Studio: Manglobe
2011; Director: Koichi Hatsumi; Studio: Manglobe

CAUTION: Contains spoilers.

May 28, 2012.

Three and a half years after Cartoon Network cancelled Toonami, and after a one-night April Fools stunt, the block had officially been resurrected.

But this was a different Toonami, largely because it was now on their sister station Adult Swim.

And what a show they chose to relaunch a block with.

It starts out very peacefully—it’s the end of the school year, and fourteen-year-old Ganta Igurashi’s homeroom class is excited about their upcoming school trip to Deadman Wonderland, the titular amusement park-slash-maximum security prison facility that is post-apocalyptic neo-Tokyo’s number one tourist destination.

Then things immediately go south when a mysterious man in red hovers outside their third-story window and massacres everyone but Ganta within the first five minutes.

In the tradition of the police force on TV not conducting a proper investigation and just arresting the first person they see, Ganta is railroaded into court on charges of mass murder and is handed down the supreme penalty that the neo-Tokyo judicial system can provide—a trip to Deadman Wonderland.

As an inmate.

Silently mourning the deaths of his friends, wanting revenge against the man in red and contemplating spending the rest of his natural life in this hellhole for a crime he didn’t commit, Ganta already has two things in his favor. First, there’s a strange red gemstone that this man in red stuck in Ganta’s chest at the scene of the massacre which gives him the power to turn his blood into a weapon. Second, he already has a contact on the inside—Shiro, an unusual albino girl with superhuman capabilities who seems to know him from childhood.

But, as a mild-mannered junior high school kid suddenly thrown into a human-sized abattoir, Ganta will have to man up very quickly if he doesn’t want to be taken out with the trash. Especially since, as a death row inmate, Ganta must eat a piece of “candy” every three days because it contains an antidote to a poison that is constantly being injected into his bloodstream by a collar he wears on his neck. This “candy,” among other amenities, can be purchased with points earned from competing in this prison’s depraved events, presented to the audience as if the whole thing were staged and the prisoners’ actual live deaths were part of the act.

I’ve seen more than my fair share of violent horror films, admittedly most of them on basic cable. I’ve also seen Basilisk, Black Lagoon, Speed Grapher and End of Eva, so most of the violence on this show I could handle easily, although it’s so over the top that the gratuity of it all was very nearly a turn-off, especially the first part of the first episode. The introduction of a private event known as the “Carnival Corpse” in which Deadmen like Ganta use their blood-powers to fight each other for the amusement of the faceless upper class does guarantee there is plenty of action, and I did enjoy those parts. Shiro was also a welcome injection of cheeriness and energy in an ocean of sociopathic wardens and sadistic inmates, as opposed to the melancholy and emotionless mysterious girls we usually get in a show like this.

But my number one complaint with Deadman Wonderland is something for which I must borrow a soapbox.

*ahem*

I am SERIOUSLY getting SICK AND TIRED of every new series deliberately leaving loose ends untied at the end of the last episode. Whenever a series builds its universe, constructs its characters and settings, gets you all interested in the plot only to pull one of these “read-the-manga” endings...it feels like I’ve been wasting my time watching it. Where’s the closure? What if the manga’s not available here? What was the point of watching it if they’re just going to leave us hanging like this? It’s dangerous enough for an American TV series to end the season on a cliffhanger because of the possibility that it won’t get renewed. Anime with “read-the-manga” endings are no different. What happened to a satisfying ending? The “red man” mystery was barely even touched upon, Shiro’s background was merely hinted at apart from her friendship with Ganta, and otherwise interesting characters are just there to occupy space. Of course, the only logical alternatives are to either make it super-long and stuff it with filler until the manga can catch up like Bleach or Naruto or go the route of the first Fullmetal Alchemist series and just make something up, so you can’t really win either way. It’s just very frustrating.

If you like a bit of the old ultraviolence without a lot of plot weighing you down, Deadman Wonderland is the series for you. Those of you with weak hearts and weak stomachs though will probably want to stay as far away as possible. It’s clearly not for everyone, especially anyone who’s too young to watch Toonami.

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Plenty of action
If you can't make it past the first episode, don't bother; also, ends on a cliffhanger

Deadman Wonderland: awesome or crap?

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    • LofZOdyssey profile image

      LofZOdyssey 4 years ago

      I one hundred percent agree, that ending is nothing if not anti-climatic. While I didn't hate it (there have been way worse), it was still a jerk move.

      That being said, I still had a lot of fun with this show. The violence was a non-issue with me because my idea of gratuitous is most definitely not the norm (watch Elfen Lied to get my meaning).

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 5 years ago from Illinois

      I'll have to wait until I get to it, my next anime review is selected by random number generating from random.org., but I enjoy violent shows I think because in shows where few people survive, it means more that a few characters do. (Does that make sense, I think I'm crazy-sounding) I wonder if I'll hate the incomplete ending as much.

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